Islands of montane evergreen high forest and adjacent montane grasslands are isolated by plantations, roads and other developments. These natural areas support threatened species including three snake species, the African Rock Python, the Swazi Rock Snake and the Striped Harlequin Snake.
African Rock Python
The African Rock Python is the world’s third largest snake measuring up to four metres. Numbers have declined due to habitat destruction and road fatalities. They are killed for their skins to make fashionable handbags and shoes or illegally collected and kept as pets. Python fat and skin are used in traditional medicines and large specimens are eaten as a delicacy. They favour rocky, wooded valleys and reed-beds,always close to water.
Swazi Rock Snake
The Swazi Rock Snake is not well known and is restricted to the eastern escarpment of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, into Swaziland. The few specimens collected, were found under rock slabs or on rocky outcrops. Forestry activities such as the destruction of rocky outcrops, as well as, frequent burning of the fringes could result in population decline.
Striped Harlequin Snake
The striped Harlequin Snake prefers grassland and is endemic to Southern Africa. These snakes are very secretive and little is known about them. They burrow in loose soil and forage underground in tunnels and cracks. They can be found in abandoned termitaria or under stones. They feed exclusively on Thread Snakes (Leptotyphlops), which they catch underground
In this booklet we also use the terms extinct, rare and restricted.
A taxon is rare when it is at risk of becoming vulnerable or endangered.
A population size that is dependant on a particular habitat is restricted.
A taxon is extinct when surveys have been carried out in all the known areas of a species’ distribution, over a period of time, appropriate to the length of its life cycle and at appropriate seasons, and no individuals can be found. The only extinct Southern African reptile is the Eastwood’s Long-tailed Seps.
Eastwood´s Long-tailed Seps
This was a small snake-like lizard that was found in the Woodbush area. It was discovered in 1913 but has not been seen since. It is assumed that it is extinct, as most of the original grassland has been transformed into pine plantations, in which the Seps cannot live. Excessive burning of montane grasslands would also have contributed to its disappearance.